JustLeadershipUSA and New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement Advocate for More Expansive Solitary Confinement Act, Reported by The Root

Posted on May 10, 2019

As Part of Statewide Reform, New York Graciously Grants Inmates in Solitary One Call Per Week

Originally Published in The Root on May 9, 2019
Written by Angela Helm

In a move to lessen what experts have deemed the “cruel and unusual punishment” of solitary confinement, a new bill in New York guarantees that those sent to segregated units will have access to a phone within 24 hours of isolation, and that they can have contact with the outside world via phone once per week. “When an incarcerated person is admitted into a segregated housing unit, the barriers to rehabilitative programming and successful reentry become even greater,” Assemblywoman Nily Rozic said. “For those who have been able to stay in contact with family throughout their sentence, the ability to make a phone call makes a huge difference. We should strengthen familial ties instead of adding hurdles.”

Not only were prisoners themselves suffering terribly under previous no-contact rules, family members were also deprived of information on their loved ones’ whereabouts or condition when they were placed in these segregated areas. Though a step in the right direction, prison reform advocates are saying it’s not enough. “As the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (NYCAIC) and directly impacted people have been saying for years, solitary confinement is torture,” Katie Schaffer, New York Statewide Organizer, JustLeadershipUSA, said. “This recently passed legislation acknowledges the harm done by denying people regular contact with their families, loved ones, and legal counsel. But access to a weekly phone call is not enough. New York State must pass the HALT Act to end the torture of prolonged isolation and take meaningful steps to respect the dignity and humanity of incarcerated people.”

HALT, or the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, effectively bans prisons from placing people away from others for extended periods of time. HALT passed in the New York Assembly last year, but the bill was not brought to the floor for a vote before the end of session in late June. Activists are hoping to pass it in the Senate this term.

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